Not By Bread Alone
I am willing to accept and believe without reservation that "all Scripture is given by inspiration" (which is something that Paul said to Timothy in a letter, by the way), but there's no way to know whether or not Paul ever intended for his personal letters, many of which were largely administrative in nature, to be considered Holy Writ.
Would he have been surprised to know that down through the centuries, his Epistles to certain, specific churches would become what they eventually became to the world? Would he be further surprised to find out that his letters to a few individuals...individuals whom he personally mentored...would attract such a larger audience...that they would be included in what became The Bible?
May I go so far as to ask if he would be surprised to discover that some people would actually come to a point where they began to consider the Bible to be "THE" only Word of God?
I know that many Christians consider these questions to be a dangerous, slippery slope, because they have been taught to accept the canon of Scriptures as an absolute of perfection...most likely these same people have been taught to not question anything at all when it comes to the Bible ...that questions are really just blasphemy in disguise.
But I really and sincerely wonder if Paul considered his own letters to be the Word of God.
There's no way to know that, of course...there's even some dispute among some theologians and historians as to whether or not he actually penned all of the letters that we assume he actually wrote.
I say all that, not to discredit the writings of Paul (as I said, I love them), but to put them in some perspective.
I think that legitimate truth can withstand some honest questioning and real examination.
For what it's worth, here's how I see it. In my opinion, the Scriptures are definitely inspired, but not necessarily infallible. Some Christians have a meltdown when I say that, but I honestly think that many people have made the Bible into an idol...a sort of religious icon that must be worshipped as a fourth addition to the Holy Trinity...and have elevated it to a point to which it should never have been elevated.
Look, the Bible no doubt contains and archives a lot of the Word of God...a lot of what He said in the past to different people and people groups for whatever was happening at that time...but the Word of God is a proceeding (present tense) Word...a now Word...as it is written,"man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word which PROCEEDS out of the mouth of God."
But I do believe that the post-resurrection revelation of Christ that Paul wrote about is real...supernatural...other-worldly. I don't believe that it came from the mind of a brilliant man...I believe that it came from heaven.
That does not mean, however, that I think Paul was the "go-to" guy for advice on human relationships, especially human sexual relationships.
Was he anointed? No doubt.
An Apostle? Yes, because Christ continued to appoint people to ministries and "give gifts unto men" even after He was no longer revealed in the flesh as Jesus, the Son of Man, just as He continues to do today.
Was Paul who he said he was? Yes, I believe so.
Did Paul have "issues"? You bet! Just like you and I do...in fact, he talked about them a good bit.
In a word, when I want to know more about the revelation of Christ, Paul is my guy.
When I need clarity on the realities and complexities of human sexuality, not so much.
Why? Well, here's a little of Paul's perspective on romance, marriage, sex, etc. You be the judge.
He referred to natural, physical desires as the thing that was waging a certain "war in his members".
Read Romans, Chapter 7, in the Amplified Bible, and tell me it doesn't sound like he was referring to some kind of personal, sexual conflict when he talked about the problem with his flesh.
Paul just didn't seem to like women at all for some reason...well, if he indeed liked them, he at least was insistent on keeping them in their place, as he saw it....and this is in spite of the fact that Jesus clearly and continually went against the social mores of His day, and liberated women. It was an integral part of His message.
Paul said that the ONLY reason to get married was if you were so weak in character that you just couldn't live without sex ("It is better to marry than to burn"), as if there is nothing to love, companionship, romance, or relationship in a marriage...nothing to two people building a life together because of compatibility and mutual interests. And, yes, I know about Ephesians 5 ("Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church")...I've been using that passage in wedding ceremonies for decades, and I already discussed that. Paul said that he wasn't talking about marriage there.
I dare say that if the only reason you are married today is because you just simply can't contain your burning lusts, and need a sexual facilitator to help you deal with them, that you probably don't have a real marriage, anyway. To me, that kind of arrangement sounds more like prolonged prostitution than real matrimony.
I'm just sayin'.
But that was Paul's idea of the reason to get married.
He wore his own celibacy as a badge of honor, and looked down on those who didn't have the same "gift" that he had.
He even defined the act of marital sex by using the decidedly dismal and unromantic phrase,"rendering due benevolence". Don't agree with me about that? Fine. You straight, married guys, next time you want to be intimate with your wife, try saying something to her like "Honey, get in here and render me some "due benevolence", so that I can stop burning in lust!", and see how the night goes for you. I dare say that that line is not going to work for the average married woman!
But Paul didn't empathize with women.
In fact, the entire Bible, whether inspired or not, was written by men to men, because women were kept illiterate then, as a rule. All of it is written from a male perspective...even the parts that are inspired by the Holy Spirit are filtered through the paradigm of a man.
And when it comes to dealing with the issues of people with same-sex attraction, I would add that the Bible was written to straight men by straight men...men who had no comprehension, whatsoever, of what it really means to be gay.
...to be continued...